Facebook fascinates me. At first it seemed a diversion, then it stepped up to become a powerhouse advertising model and now I see it as a paradigm shift in how we learn—the democracy of it all is remarkable. No one is forced to like or recommend products or services or video clips, rather we do it because of our desire to share with our communities.
I initially worried that an online community would attempt to replace an actual one, but now I see them as intertwined and symbiotic. For me, having one actually enhances the other.
The mission of Mamalode is simple: we create connections for mothers. In many ways, we are merely a content delivery system with curated user-generated content. And yes, Facebook inspires us.
So, to get a better sense of the who and how behind Facebook, I went to Palo Alto for a tour and an interview with Randi Zuckerberg, the company’s consumer marketing director and sister of founder Mark Zuckerberg.
First, I do have to indulge a bit in what Facebook HQ is like. It is full of energy and smarts and good snacks. The people who helped me all had superhero-type names (Slater, Mr. Thaw) and all of the conference rooms were wittily named after different themes (my favorites were the “Bad Idea” rooms like Running With Scissors.) There are no corner offices. Everyone, top to bottom, is situated in open spaces with open desks. The ability to share and the momentum that comes from unfettered ideas is palpable. I felt smarter just being there.
Randi is cool enough to have a rap song from Snoop Dog written about her (for real) and to have taken some time to answer our questions. Let me introduce you to her—expectant mama and social media rock star.
Randi Zuckerberg: I graduated from Harvard University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After college, I returned to New York and worked at Ogilvy & Mather and Forbes, Inc. In fall 2005, I moved to California to join Facebook. At that point, we had about 20 employees in a small one-room office in Palo Alto. Today, I lead the consumer marketing team at Facebook, and the company has about 2,000 employees worldwide.
I met my wonderful husband Brent Tworetzky in college, and we were married on the beach in Jamaica in May 2008. We are expecting our first child in late May—very excited (and also a bit terrified). It truly felt real when the crib arrived in March. It was a very emotional moment.
Mamalode: Can you give us some stats about Facebook: number of people on it, number of mom-related groups, etc?
Randi Zuckerberg: Among the more than 500 million people who use Facebook, there are thousands of groups relating to new mothers, parental support and pregnancy. It’s also easy for people to create their own groups to keep in touch with other parents in their area.
Mamalode: Motherhood in the age of Facebook is far less isolating and filled with connection. In what ways do you see Facebook as a tool for mothers?
Randi Zuckerberg: Facebook is a platform for connections, and we see moms using Facebook to share stories, post photos, swap advice or offer each other support. Personally, Facebook has been really important for me in sharing updates about my pregnancy. I have friends all over the country (and all over the world!) and by posting photos and updates on Facebook, I feel like I've been able to stay close to friends and family throughout these past eight months. I've also received invaluable advice (and sympathy) on everything from what type of stroller to purchase, to what to do about constant leg pain. I'm sure that once the baby is born, I'll spend even more time on Facebook (if that's even possible.)
Mamalode: Does Facebook provide a mom-friendly work environment?
Randi Zuckerberg: Facebook is very mom-friendly. Besides the overwhelming emotional support from all my coworkers, Facebook gives great benefits to new parents. The company offers excellent medical benefits, up to four months of maternity/paternity leave for new parents and “baby cash” that you can use to cover anything from diapers to day care. I could not be happier with the support that my colleagues, and Facebook as a company, have provided me during this exciting time in my life.
Mamalode: What is your favorite thing about your job?
Randi Zuckerberg: For me, it's definitely the people. I love that I get to work with so many smart, passionate people every single day. I actually miss my team over the weekends and can't wait to see them on Monday mornings! (Although who knows if they feel the same way about me…) There is a great feeling of excitement at Facebook about our mission and the work we do, and that makes it exciting to go to work each day. I also love that no two days are the same. One day, we might be working with the United Nations Foundation on their Haiti Earthquake initiatives, and the next, we might be interviewing Conan O'Brien for our Facebook Live show on how the groundswell of support on Facebook helped him land his new show. There's really no other job out there that gives you access to so many people and industries, and allows you to have such a big impact on all of them equally.
Mamalode: I have a soft spot for the family affair that is Facebook, and harbor dreams of my sons working together as adults—how do you see siblings as coworkers?
Randi Zuckerberg: It's really been great. I think the key is to work on completely different sides of the business. I don't work on anything product/engineering-related, and my brother leaves the marketing side of the house to me. There are actually quite a few sibling pairs at Facebook! I think another key is to leave work at home. When we get together outside of work, we try really hard to not talk about Facebook!
Mamalode: What was the best thing you learned from your parents? What do you want to impart on your children?
Randi Zuckerberg: My parents always stressed the value of education. Whether it was reading to us daily, beginning at a very young age, to teaching us about the stock market (I think one of my first words may have been “NASDAQ”), they always reinforced that we could do ANYTHING we wanted with our lives, as long as we had a strong foundation built on a good education and work ethic. I definitely hope to instill those same values in our growing family.
Mamalode: One of our missions with Mamalode is to redefine the working mother. How do you plan to juggle the work/life balance? (By the way, social media is easily one of the best tools in our quiver, allowing us to work like crazy and still pick up our kiddos from school.)
Randi Zuckerberg: Oh gosh, ask me in a few months from now! In all seriousness, I definitely plan to lean on my friends and those in my network—I've already used Facebook to help find a pediatrician and nanny, and I'm sure I'll be relying on advice from friends online when my baby is sick or is up screaming in the middle of the night. Because I have friends in every time zone on Facebook, someone is always available to be a sounding board! I'm sure once I go back to work, Facebook will be a great way to get photos during the day and keep updated on how the little guy is doing when I'm out of the house!
Mamalode: How do you see social media shaping parenting?
Randi Zuckerberg: I see a lot of opportunity. Parents and parents-to-be can share stories with friends, get recommendations for good doctors and babysitters and find reputable day care. Moreover, mothers can share experiences and lessons learned with others in the same situation from all over the world. In meeting many women/moms in my travels and speeches on behalf of Facebook, it's amazing to me that no matter how different we all may be as people, being a parent and talking about/sharing photos of their children is one of those things that people have in common, no matter where they're from.
Mamalode: So many moms share common fears and dreams about motherhood, what are some of yours?
Randi Zuckerberg: I often think…what makes me qualified for this? There's absolutely nothing that makes me qualified to care for a precious little infant, besides the fact that I will love him with all my heart! I worry every day about messing up, and from what I've seen on Facebook, that seems to be a common fear among other first-time moms!
Mamalode: What are you passionate about?
Randi Zuckerberg: Aside from my family, music has always been a huge passion of mine. I believe that it's important to have interests beyond work and family—we all need to be three-dimensional people! That's what makes everyone so interesting and unique.
Mamalode: Mamalode is full of show-tune lovers like you—pray tell, what is your favorite show tune right now?
Randi Zuckerberg: Right now, I'm listening to the musical “Wicked” a lot—I can't get the song “For Good” out of my head. It's about one of those unlikely relationships in life that ends up completely changing you. The lyrics “Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But, because I knew you, I have been changed…. for good” are really resonating with me right now!
Mamalode: Did you ever imagine that Facebook would become what it is today, or have we still not reached the limits of your imagination?
Randi Zuckerberg: We have a saying at Facebook that we’ve only achieved 1% of what is possible. I think it’s amazing that our company has grown to this level, and I believe we’ve got a lot of exciting things ahead of us.
This essay was originally published in print Issue no. 8, theme ENOUGH.